Thursday, December 19, 2002

SO, NU? What are you doing here? In case it wasn't clear, The Sound and Fury weblog has moved to thanks to the tireless efforts of Le Garçon Combustible. Change bookmarks, etc. Apologies that links to the old Blogger archives now appear permanently shot. I'd pass the hat and ask for money to pay for the not-free Movable Type hosting, but I make a good living. If you were inclined to donate money to this site, I'll instead encourage you to donate a chunk of change to Magen David Adom and drop me a line that it's been done.
LITTLE BY LITTLE, THE DNS for the new is making its way around the Net, demonstrating that my futzing around with Movable Type and typing random Unix commands all day has finally come to fruition. I've also imported all of our Blogger archives over there for quick searching, and the old Blogger posts will keep their old "Shout Out" hosted-comments links for the convenience of people looking through our archives, while the new blog entries will only have their Movable Type built-in comments. Ahh... finally got the training wheels off and I'm feeling good.
IN RESPONSE TO MY post below, Matt Evans attempts to defend the rape exception to the Republican pro-life position. Evans's argument, however, does not stand up to scrutiny.

Evans starts by arguing from analogy: imagine a putative father who had semen extracted by force and, as a result, fathered a child. Surely no one would insist that this father pay child support for his unwanted child? Ergo, no one would insist that a mother support a pregnancy incurred by force.

There are two problems with this analogy. First, it's unclear that the premise is correct. The hypothetical is so outlandish that there is no precedent directly on point (a problem with some pro-choice analogies, as well, such as Judith Jarvis Thomson's violinist example). But unlike the Thomson case, there are cases parallel to the Evans analogy. Men have been ordered to pay child support even when they have no biological connection to the child. The only cases to the contrary--cases involving custody of frozen in vitro embryos after divorce--justify the refusal to force the ex-husband to be an unwanted father on the precedent of Roe v. Wade. If Roe v. Wade disappears, then so does the rationale for not allowing ex-wives to implant frozen embryos without the fathers' consent, and the state would very likely enforce child support requirements in such a circumstance.

Second, failure to pay child support just isn't the same thing as abortion. A father without the ability to pay ends up without legal obligation. The existing state of child support laws just does not map onto the world where abortion is illegal; an impoverished pregnant woman would still be required to carry her child to term in such a world, even if she would suffer undue financial hardship because of her pregnancy.

Evans's concluding rationalization is "a woman becomes a mother she assumes affirmative duties to protect her child from harm; women who become mothers through force should be exempted from these legal duties." (We'll ignore for purposes of this post Evans's misleading use of "child" to refer to a zygote or embryo.) The fallacy in this statement is obvious: Evans surely is not claiming that a rape victim can carry an unwanted child to term, deliver the baby, and then let it starve without legal consequence. The conclusion therefore has to be modified: "women who become mothers through force should be granted the right to an exerciseable option to either terminate the pregnancy or assuming the affirmative legal duties of parenthood." But once Evans and pro-life politicos make this concession, he acknowledges one of the two underlying principles of the pro-choice position: abortion is not infanticide, and there is an appropriate moral distinction between the two. And the politically acceptable pro-life position is once again forced into an untenable contradiction.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

NOT ONLY WAS THE latest Pilger piece published by Pakistan's Daily Times, but another English-language Pakistani paper, the Quetta-based Balochistan Post, has printed an article by Pilger's fellow anti-American liar Marc Herold.
THIS WACKY BIT OF Enron sketch comedy featuring Jeff Skilling must have seemed like a big joke back in 1997 when it was recorded as a going-away video for executive Richard Kinder -- right?
In the video, Skilling tells Kinder -- played by Enron's Peggy Menchaca -- that he's come up with a way to really pump up revenue.

"I haven't mentioned this before, Rich, but this is the key. We're going to move from market-to-market accounting to something I call HFV -- Hypothetical future value accounting. If we do that, we can add a kazillion dollars to the bottom line."

An accountant sitting next to Skilling replies, saying, "I don't know, Rich. We've got the FASB rules and the SEC. The accountants are just never going to go for it."

Skilling responds, "He's a spoil-sport. Always has been."
Ha! I get it! Meanwhile, O-Dub notes the part about how both George Bushes were included in the tape.
BILL HERBERT REBUTS one lie after another in Pilger's latest.
MORE DEVELOPERS ARE ADAPTING big-box stores to urban locations. Home Depot in Manhattan? Wow.

There's a two-level Target here in the D.C. area -- at the mall formerly known as Wheaton Plaza, right near where Max Sawicky lives* -- that includes one of those nifty Vermaport cart escalators, which are special cart-only escalators in between the regular escalators. You push the cart into the mechanism and the cart is locked in place and kept horizontal as it moves up or down along the escalator track. The manufacturer's Web site has a nice photo of a Vermaport in action.

* At least according to the D.C. Metro Blog Map.
BY NOW, EVERYBODY HAS blogged that article from the Iraqi government's official news site about Sean Penn's visit to the country and his alleged confirmation that there are no WMDs there. A day later, the New York Post reports that Penn's spokeswoman insists he was misquoted and that the Iraq Daily piece was "specifically propaganda" and "a twisted interpretation of what he said". So, do you think anyone will learn a little lesson about how much credence to give to the Saddam regime's proclamations?
MARGERY LANDRY, formerly of the US Foreign Service, sentenced to twenty years for shooting friend's husband.
Landry, 48, who had pleaded guilty in September to first-degree assault, burglary and other crimes, said that the shooting was a "mistake" and that she had planned only to plant child pornography in the home to help her friend in the divorce case.
The Washingtonian has a good background piece on the case, including the following observation from the victim:
Meanwhile, Slobodow is trying to raise the boys and move on with his life, which he hopes will include another relationship. “The shooting kind of turns women off,” he says.
CAPTAIN SPAULDING on the latest Buffy episode:
Tonight's episode of Buffy was really good as it ramps up the apocalypse against the First Evil. Buffy's speech at the end where she says she's through running and will take the fight directly to the First was particularly great.

Presumably in the next episode, Buffy's first strike policy will be called inhumane. Protestors will demand that she work through the UN and perhaps try to understand the root causes of the First Evil. Maybe Mike Farrell will hold an anti-apocalypse press conference and Sean Penn will visit the First Evil and the Ubervamp.
WOO-HOO! FTC Plans Registry To Block Sales Calls.
FTC officials expect 60 million Americans to register when the list becomes operational -- which won't be for at least several more months. It still faces logistical and legal hurdles, including a possible lawsuit by the telemarketing industry, which makes more than 100 million calls a day.

If and when the list is up and running, telemarketers would have to scour it every three months and would be barred for five years from calling the consumers who signed up. Consumers would then have to renew their registration. If they get called anyway, those on the list can call another toll-free number to complain. The FTC would then investigate and could fine telemarketers up to $11,000 for each banned call.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

SOMEBODY TELL THE ONION that it's harder than that to amend the Constitution (and with good reason).
A FORTY-FOOT-LONG crawl-thru large intestine will be touring the country next year to help promote awareness of colorectal cancer. Somebody remind Lair that it'll be in Houston in May.

(Via Roadside America's Tourism News.)
YOU GOTTA WONDER WHY the Iraqi government's official English-language news site Iraq Daily includes a Technology section that seems to consist entirely of brief catalog-style consumer-product descriptions accompanied by malcompressed photos. Though I have to admit that that Linksys laptop ethernet card looks pretty nice, and you'd think that the glossy photo-printing paper would be just the thing to help those publishers lacking resources due to the sanctions imposed by the "aggressors' siege". Then even people without Internet connections can be treated to thrilling reading material such as the Iraq Daily's Society page with its exciting history of soap and personal hygiene.

(More importantly, the editors probably figure the aggressors' siege will end sooner if the Iraqi Ministry of Information keeps reprinting John Pilger pieces and noting the results of Sean Penn's thoroughgoing weapons inspections.)
MSNBC'S JERRY NACHMAN INTERVIEWS Al Franken about the Gore decision:
Nachman: Did you know about this on Friday?
Franken: About Gore's decision?
N: Right.
F: I was there when he called Lesley Stahl.
N: Right.
F: He had only told me, Lorne ["SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels], [writer] Jim Downey, a few members of the cast.
N: Is that true?
F: No.
N: No?
F: No.
N: So, you didn't know.
F: I didn't know.
THE CLEAN WATER ACT has created a potential ecological disaster in the Chicago River. (via Thomason)
LIFE IMITATES TREEHOUSE OF HORROR XII: The Self-Cleaning Dinner Table. (via Gizmodo)
I'VE MENTIONED before as a marvelous site, but I'm all the more impressed now that I know that they also have prominent low-rise buildings like one of my favorites, Prague's "Ginger & Fred".
MARK GOLDBLATT HAS A good piece on the Central Park Jogger case.

Monday, December 16, 2002

ETIQUETTE QUESTION: When an ex-girlfriend sells a 4,500-word essay to an on-line literary magazine about her history with penises, should I be relieved that I was left out, insulted at the omission, or appalled that the most sexually timid woman I ever dated is trying to market herself as the next Candace Bushnell? (Sorry, no link. My parents read this site.)
TOM TOMORROW CLAIMS THAT there was yet another comment in the past by Lott seeming to wish Thurmond had won in '48, and that it'll break into the mainstream media sometime in the next couple of days. This comment, Tom avers, happened "in October 2000 at the signing of the Spence/Warner Defense Spending Bill". Well, we'll see -- I doubt it would surprise anyone at this point. (Doesn't look like Official Story Owner Josh Marshall has anything on it yet, although he did come down pretty hardcore today on the GOP's allegations of voter fraud in the South Dakota Senate race.)

Speaking of Tom Tomorrow, I did like his cartoon today, although I think putting Lott in the Klan outfit was overkill.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING how I'd rank them, I put it as (1) The White Stripes; (2) The Vines; (3) The Strokes; and (4) The Hives.
I LIKE STUART BUCK. He's intelligent, he's a good writer. But every once in a while, he'll drop my jaw with something shockingly... I don't know, "stupid" is too insulting, and also unfair. But a recent post on abortion shows a viewpoint that is sheltered, to say the least.

To wit, Buck suggests that Democrats should oppose abortion because abortions deprive them of future voters; anti-choice voters will continue to have babies, while pro-choice voters will abort theirs. It's the kind of pat argument I've heard self-satisfied activists make unthinkingly; Buck has done this elsewhere, as when he claimed (incorrectly) that there's never been a home-schooler shooting.

More importantly, it is foolish argumentation on many levels.

1) Leaving aside the fact that it's not quite the case that political viewpoints are inherited, it's also far from the case that there's an inverse relationship between abortion rates and birth rates. Sweden, for example, has far fewer abortions per person than the United States does, but also a lower birth rate. (One of the many ironies of the U.S. anti-abortion movement is that they overlap greatly with the strongest opponents to the sort of reforms in sex education and contraceptive availability that might reduce the abortion rate, with the side benefit of also reducing the unwed pregnancy rate and the social problems caused by that. If you believe abortion is murder, why oppose reforms that would reduce the "murder" rate by millions a year? Especially when those same reforms would also help break the cycle of poverty? It's little wonder that pro-choice supporters view much of the anti-abortion movement with skepticism.)

1a) Imagine the same argument as applied to gay rights. Certainly gay rights supporters are more likely to be childless than those who oppose gay rights, but which way has the trend gone in the last thirty years? Sometimes issues of social justice are resolved on the merits rather than by heredity.

2) Why are Democrats pro-choice? It's an interesting example of public choice theory. Abortion was not always an issue that cleanly divided Republicans from Democrats: it was a Nixon appointee that wrote the opinion in Roe v. Wade, and it was a Kennedy appointee who was the strongest and loudest dissenter. The anti-abortion movement, in conjunction with the Christian right, threw their support to the Republican party, which systematically over the last quarter-century purged its rolls of pro-choice members. It quickly became known that a Republican soft on abortion issues (such as, for example, the 1980 edition of George H.W. Bush) would have political troubles. Quick, name four prominent pro-choice Republicans! Christine Todd Whitman, Arlen Specter, maybe George Pataki, and... um... Laura Bush if you pressed her on the subject, but she won't be running for the Senate in 2008. Pro-choice supporters had little option but to move to the Democratic party, which in turn forced its members to toe the line: Al Gore and Dick Gephardt are among prominent Democrats who have flipped on the issue in the last 25 years as a matter of political survival.

2a) Besides, you know, sometimes politicians, on occasion, stand up for principles because they're right. Shocking, but true.

3) I hereby suggest that the Republican position on abortion is far more cynical, politicized, and unprincipled than the Democratic position. The two principled justifications for government limitation on the ability to have an abortion are (a) enforcing morality in the sense of a belief that sex is only appropriate as a means of procreation, and/or (b) a conceptual argument that to cause the death of a zygote/embryo/fetus is akin to murder. I don't see any Republicans calling for a repeal of the Griswold ban on bans of selling contraceptives; it's safe to say that there's a trend against laws against various forms of fornication, with a strong chance that the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick case will be thrown out this term by the heavily Republican Supreme Court. (The original Georgia anti-sodomy statute at issue in Hardwick has already been struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court, without much public outrage.) Nor are Republicans willing to admit to government legislation of morality calling for a subordinate role of women restricting them to childbearing duties. Indeed, I daresay the majority of rank-and-file Republicans, and even a larger majority of Republican political leaders, support the legalized sale of contraceptives and the presence of women in the workforce.

So that leaves "abortion is murder" as the only principled reason for a politician to oppose abortion.

Except if you look at the Republican platform, and the public statements of every anti-abortion politician from W. Bush on down, there's always an exception: make abortion illegal, except in cases of rape and incest.

Why the exception? Either abortion is murder, or it isn't. If life begins at conception, why does the spawn of a rapist and his victim have any less rights than any other unwanted pregnancy? Buck may find Democratic support of abortion mysterious, but it ain't half as mysterious as the willingness of Republicans to carve out an abortion exception for rape victims.

Okay, it isn't all that mysterious: the answer is votes. Something like 74%-84% of Americans support the right to abortion in cases of rape. Any politican principled enough to stand loudly by the proposition that life begins at conception and rape victims have to carry pregnancies to term would have to answer to the voters.

Say what you will about the Democrats and abortion, but at least they're internally consistent.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Thursday, December 12, 2002

GOOGLE IS TESTING A new product-search gadget called Froogle. Just in time for Christmas, if you're one of those heathens who celebrate that way.

Eagled-eyed news junkies may remember Orlando Bethel, the subject of the story behind that second link, as the guy who started a brawl at a funeral in June when he finished singing the song he'd been invited to sing and then told everyone the deceased was in hell for being a drunkard and a fornicator.
THE URBAN LEGENDS REFERENCE PAGES are not so sure about the oft-voiced assertion that the high incidence of child rape in South Africa is primarily driven by the belief that sex with a virgin is a cure for AIDS. According to Latesha Treger, an official at a project involved with a recent study of the phenomenon, "The idea that having sex with a virgin cleanses you of AIDS does exist in South Africa and there have been reported cases of this as a motivating factor for child rape, but the predominant evidence suggests that this is infrequently the case."

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

RETRO-GRUNGE NOSTALGIA ALREADY? Well, I guess it is the day after Kurt Cobain Day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

A lot of people think they can observe Kurt Cobain day simply by wearing a cardigan sweater to work. When these people die they are going to go to hell.

Solemn and heartful observance of Kurt Cobain day involves three brief, measured rituals:

First, make some French Toast. This is to demonstrate that you know that if Kurt Cobain's ghost came into your kitchen while you were eating French Toast, he'd probably lick his pretty pink lips and say, "Man, I sure wish I could eat some French Toast." Then he'd probably just hover over your table and look really jealous. When you're finished with your breakfast, look up at Kurt Cobain's ghost and say, "Shouldn't have killed yourself, Cobain. Fame might be a bitch, but French Toast is still delicious."
(warning: language stronger than your ordinary bear)
ARCHAIC TECHNOLOGY OF THE most entertaining sort. Can't we revive some of this?
CORSAIR IS WORRIED THAT anti-Americanism will be the next hot fad to sweep South Korea.
"IN SOUTH AFRICA, MOUNTING evidence of al Qaeda links," the WSJ reports in a front-page headline this morning. "Hiding $40,000 in underwear".

Monday, December 09, 2002

CITING SEPARATION-OF-POWERS CONCERNS, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that was essentially a Congressional effort to gather more information about Dick Cheney's energy task force. The WaPo notes that U.S. District Judge John Bates was appointed by President Bush, which means this is a good candidate to be the topic of a future Tom Tomorrow strip.
GOOD PIECE IN Slate about the appalling Rhodes award to Chesa Boudin.
EXCELLENT ANALYSIS OF The Sopranos, and, even better, of the Slate talkfest on The Sopranos. (via Missy)
THE "QUEEN OF MOSCOW DRAG RACING" is also a pink-fingernailed manicurist. Sounds like Instantman's kind of woman.
VENEZUELA'S OPPOSITION IS PLEDGING an indefinite strike against Chavez. Get a load of that photo -- yeah, way to look like an elected leader of a democratic country there, Hugo.
SERBIA HAS ONCE AGAIN failed to elect a president, as too few people showed up to the polls. Too few voters? Is that really a problem?
QUICK TURNAROUND IN THE WHITE HOUSE: Looks like the new Treasury secretary will be John Snow, chairman of the railroad company CSX, who served in the Transportation Department during the Ford Administration, says the WaPo. (Remember when we made fun of the idea of Rumsfeld, another veteran of the Ford White House, being disinterred to serve under Dubya?) The McPaper agrees on the Snow appointment and also reports that former Goldman Sachs co-chairman Stephen Friedman will be Larry Lindsey's replacement; the NYT concurs that Friedman's likely to be the one.
A "TORNADO IN A CAN" might be just the thing to pulverize the byproducts from poultry processing, the WaPo reports.
Whether there are vast riches to be made from pulverizing chicken poop or poultry parts into powder remains to be seen. The trick will be whether the machine can transform the various substances into products worth more than the processing costs.
You mean that's not what comes in the packet with the ramen noodles?

Sunday, December 08, 2002

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK CHENEY is building in there? Batcave? Particle accelerator? Hef-style "grotto"?
I'VE BEEN LOOKING THROUGH news photos trying to figure out which is my favorite of the Saddam Hussein wall murals that seem to lurk in the background of every public vista in Iraq. I was caught up by this high-contrast shot that seems intentionally reminiscent of that famous T-shirt image of Che, but on the other hand I can't see how any red-blooded woman could fail to be charmed by a lovely mural depicting Saddam as a 1970s barroom lothario. Years after Saddam's regime has ceased to be, do you think companies will make posters of Saddam murals available, just as you can pretty easily buy Soviet propaganda posters today?

Saturday, December 07, 2002

MUNCIE, INDIANA, DECIDED TO NAME an alley after David Letterman in response to his ongoing campaign to get the Indianapolis beltway renamed "The Dave Letterman Expressway", but the alley-naming ceremony was marred by a protest by Garfield fans. It seems the cat's aficionados were miffed because Jim Davis, the guy who "writes" and "draws" Garfield, is a resident of the county while Dave only lived there for as long as it took to get out of Ball State University. But Muncie's mayor assured them that there will be a parade for Garfield's 25th birthday next year. (Via Mark Evanier.)
JAZZ MADE HARLEM FAMOUS in the first half of the twentieth century, but the people who were made famous by Harlem jazz -- Count Basie, Lena Horne, Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald and plenty of other names you'd know -- used their fortunes to relocate to the leafy suburban hideaway of Addisleigh Park, Queens.
DAVE TILL'S TORONTO PHOTOS -- out-of-the-way images of storefronts, signs, graffiti and other nuances in my second-favorite city.

Friday, December 06, 2002

VELOUR IS BACK; lock up your daughters.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

OPEC IS LIKELY TO boost its output quotas in order to lower production and stabilize prices come the beginning of the year (unless there's a war against Iraq), the Wall Street Journal reports. Er, say what? Well, the WSJ explains, supply and demand in the oil market are in balance now, and [emphasis added]:
OPEC's official quota now is 21.7 million barrels a day. But cheating has been so rife as to boost actual production to more than 24 million barrels daily. Right now, the market can absorb that. But early next year, it can't without lower prices. With the cheating too much to codify and legitimize, the group is betting it can maintain balance -- and prices at today's levels -- by raising its output quotas to a point somewhere between today's targeted production and actual output.
Ahh! That's right! Treaties and international cooperation. Multilateralism! Our UN partners in peace.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

INTERVIEWS WITH LAW FIRM PERSONNEL who have been caught publicly criticizing their employer tend to have the feel of well-meaning attempts by journalists to get the word on the Pyongyang street. This story on Clifford Chance is no different: "We're six of the happiest people here; we really love the firm."
DATABASE OF INTERLOCKING CORPORATE DIRECTORATES. Subscription-only, and at a pretty hefty price, but you can sign up for a free introductory subscription.
OVER THE LAST THREE years, Jim Thome hit .256 on the road, 63 points lower than in Jacobs Field. And Veterans Stadium is no Jacobs Field for hitters. And how a fellow hits at age 32-37 tends to be somewhat worse than how he hits at age 29-31. I'm a big Thome fan, and the Braves are due for a fall, but the Phillies need more than Thome and David Bell to make up the 20+ games between them and the Braves, as sweet as an Abreu/Burrell/Thome lineup looks. (When did David Bell become a savior? He's a competent third baseman, but hardly a dramatic upgrade.)
I'D HAVE TO CHECK, but I imagine that the New York Times was among the leaders in pooh-poohing Jack Welch's perks at General Electric--certainly Paul Krugman did. (Corporations often give perks instead of salary to high executives because the perks are tax-deductible and the salary isn't -- thus, the corporation can provide the executive with a higher standard of living at a lower cost to shareholders than they could by just raising his salary. Whether corporations where the executives live like kings or where the cost of such perks are hidden from shareholders are well-run is another question for another time.)

I mention this because I was amused by a recent article in the travel section of the Times. The writer, who was a Times editor, spent three nights with his wife in different New York City luxury hotel suites and justified it with a story about the experience, presumably for all those Times subscribers who are trying to choose between the various $1000+tax hotel rooms available when they visit the home city of the New York Times. A $322 dinner at Lespinasse merited a whole sentence, a $102 afternoon tea half a sentence, but the $150 worth of massages at the St. Regis got edited out. I'm curious if New York Times shareholders footed the entire $5,000 bill, or if the rank-and-file writers at the Times get the same opportunities for expense accounts.

[CORRECTION: I am now informed that the perks are subject to stricter tax rules than straight income, so my sentence in the first paragraph about the reasoning behind corporate perks is incorrect. I still have to wonder whether corporations try to get deductions for some of the perks we have read about in the press. Certainly a number of the "perks" at my job are quite appropriately treated as business expenses by my employer even if they also have the incidental effect of improving my quality of life.]
JOHN OF IBERIAN NOTES mentions another mutant strain of the Nigerian scam spam, this one claiming that the money is going to fund further warfare in Africa if you don't help squirrel it out of the continent. John's link isn't working, but I found a spam matching that description quoted in full on Usenet. (This "trust fund for arms and ammunition to further the course of War in Africa" version isn't as new as John makes it out to be, though -- it goes back at least to October 2000. There have been at least two different versions specifically mentioning Angola!)
KREMLIN-WATCHERS TAKE NOTE: The State Department is refurbishing the Iraqi embassy in Washington, D.C., which had been abandoned since diplomatic relations were cut off in 1991. $40,000 in frozen Iraqi bank accounts are being used to repair the roof and add a new gutter and downspout system. The State Department refused to deny that the restoration was in preparation for regime change.
BRIAN EMMETT REPORTS ON some unlikely war-conspiracy connections mapped out on the back cover of the latest Godspeed You Black Emperor! album. Really, you'd probably be better off sticking to the music, fellas.

Monday, December 02, 2002

A YEAR AFTER AFGHANS met in Germany to establish a post-Taliban government, Hamid Karzai is back in Bonn to reflect on the country's progress and talk up its future. For one thing, he's establishing a single national paid military and outlaw the independent private militias -- yeesh, good luck with that one. Also, I see from the photo of Karzai and Schröder that Karzai's taken to dressing in Afghan-style clothing. Hey, all the better to blend in with that U.S. bodyguard detail of his.
IF THE JAPANESE DOCTOR-CONSULTIN' TOILETS I've previously mentioned weren't your kind of thing, perhaps you'd prefer the visions of some American futurists who would rather see your other appliances online:
You'll no longer be surprised to get a call from the repair center at Sears or Maytag saying your washing machine is using too much hot water and needs adjustment -- information the washing machine has sent through the Net, without any action of your part, back to the factory where it was built.
(Via Greg Beato, who remarks, "well, it's a future that John Ashcroft and marketing executives will certainly love.")
INTERNATIONAL BUY SOMETHING DAY has been declared! E-mail Tim Blair to tell him what you bought.
THE REGISTER LAST WEEK ran a San Francisco correspondent's commentary sorta kinda sympathizing with the Indymedia cop killer's outlook, including this gem of an observation:
Is McCrae a tasteless, publicity-seeking prankster who's trying to use an unsolved murder to promote his cause? Or is he an instrument of a psyops operation to discredit the burgeoning anti-globalization movement - which, when you take away the richly-funded thinktanks and institutes and warblogs of the conservative right, is the only political movement in America with any momentum right now?
Heaven help us, even when the anti-globos try to spin their movement as the new mainstream, they still can't avoid the psyops-behind-every-corner paranoia. But at least we warbloggers are here with our demonic prattle designed to tamp down the rising masses! And we are all part of the conservative right, no matter how many of us are Democrats or are virtuecrat-spurning gay men or still leery of Bush -- it's all the same thing, innit?
NEW URBAN-LEGENDS INFO: Snopes debunks Black Friday and Barbara warns of a new Nigeria-style scam involving phony foreign lotteries.
AHH, THE LILEKS CHRISTMAS-TREE ALLEGORY! He's been doing iterations of it for at least the past 15 years or so, but it's like a fine wine, etc. With each retelling, new themes find their way into the story, while the older themes get sanded down into ever more concise bits of prose. It's always the same cycle -- tree chopped down and stacked in lot, sad; tree taken to house full of wooden furniture and fireplace, scared; tree ornamented and gushed over, honored; tree dragged out to await trash pickup, scorned and irate -- but it's how he fleshes it out that makes all the difference.

I was first introduced to Lileks' work a decade or so ago when I picked up a copy of Notes of a Nervous Man at the university bookstore, solely on the strength of the Dave Barry blurb on the cover -- hey, I was young then -- and was so impressed with this talented newspaper essayist I'd discovered that I started talking up Lileks to everyone, even though I knew nobody would be able to figure out how to spell his name. Notes of a Nervous Man contained a version of the Christmas Tree Allegory that appears to have run in the St. Paul Pioneer Press sometime in the late '80s. In addition to the familiar themes described above, it also had a tangent about how he was frightened by a carefully bred Christmas tree that was designed not to shed its needles; Lileks remarked something along the lines of "You don't want to come home and find that your Übertannenbaum has annexed the front yard and is ordering the elms to move along."

Now here I am in 2002, getting new commentaries from the guy every weekday at no extra charge, and with half the people I know online revering him as some kind of hero. But it's still... not... enough!

Sunday, December 01, 2002

CAPTAIN SPAULDING'S discussion of spin-offs and cross-overs got me surfing, and caused me to discover a bit of trivia I never knew: Lois from Hi & Lois is the sister of Beetle Bailey.
WHO KNEW THAT there was a 1931 version of Hammett's The Maltese Falcon? The lead, Ricardo Cortez in the Bogart role of Sam Spade, later went on to play Perry Mason in a 1936 movie; starlet and Marx Brothers heroine Thelma Todd played Iva Archer, and horror-movie character actor Dwight Frye was Wilmer. Reviews indicate that the pre-Code version was more explicit than the more-famous 1941 edition, but John Huston did a better job in capturing Hammett's style. (via Sjostrom)
THE WEB HAS EVERYTHING, part 1153: Gallery of Macaroni & Cheese Boxes.
NEXT TIME YOU see a Canadian getting all huffy, remind him or her that the top Google search in Canada is for "Britney Spears."
Why Are Black Students Lagging? asks the New York Times.
NEW YORK TIMES article on Charlie Kaufman, author of "Being John Malkovich" and the forthcoming Pirandellian "Adaptation."
AS I'VE SAID BEFORE, I'd be a lot more sympathetic about the plight of the convicted rapists of the Central Park jogger if their defense wasn't, as the New York Times put it, that they were busy mugging someone else in the park when the rapes occurred. The criminals spent a handful of years in prison, which was too little punishment for the other violent acts they committed, even if it does turn out to be too much punishment for a rape they confessed to but didn't commit.
"That was the issue," said Peter Rivera, Mr. Santana's lawyer in 1990. "But we didn't say, `No, when the jogger was raped, my client was on 96th Street, mugging someone else.' That would have been self-defeating."
So, instead, the lawyers attacked the victim.

Let's be clear: it was an injustice if these criminals were convicted of a rape they didn't commit. But given the crimes they did commit, and the punishment they received, I find it hard to say that the overall result was unjust. They got a fair trial: the criminals chose not to use the best evidence that they had of their "innocence" because it would have implicated them in other crimes. The jury, not aware of that evidence, convicted them of a larger set of crimes than the set of crimes they actually committed. In the land of cliches, this is sleeping in the bed you made for yourself.

Of all the injustices that take place in the legal system every day, one where a group of teenagers who committed eight muggings (including one of a schoolteacher who was severaly beaten and kicked) was also mistakenly convicted of a rape that took place contemporaneously in the same vicinity probably doesn't make the top ten thousand. I'm more appalled that the criminals aren't still in jail than I am at the mistaken verdict. The Daily News is more vivid in describing what happened:
The roving gang moved south, stopping at 101st St., where they formed a gantlet and surrounded tandem cyclists Gerald Malone and Patricia Dean.

"I was terrified," Dean testified. "They were grabbing at my legs and pushing at my shoulder. They were making animal noises, grunting. I thought for sure we were going over."

Malone and Dean got away. Others were not as fortunate.

British jogger Robert Garner, 30, was pushed down an embankment and pummeled. He thought he "was going to die."

Teacher John Loughlin, 41, was thrown face down in the grass and whacked in the head with a pipe until he was bloody.
Would Patricia Dean have been raped had the muggers succeeded in overturning her tandem bicycle? We'll never know, but we can make an educated guess.
YOU ALREADY KNEW that Ann Coulter was an idiot, but she confirms it by putting the pseudo-scientific "Darwin on Trial" on her Christmas book list.
VERY IMPRESSIVE DC Ethnic Dining Guide from Tyler Cowen. (via Mooney, who writes about Cowen's theories that globalization diversifies culture, as opposed to reducing it to a melange of McDonald's)

Saturday, November 30, 2002

A PRICE WAR between bus companies targeting Chinese immigrant customers has led to $15 round-trip bus fares from DC to NY, Chinatown to Chinatown. That's cheaper than the highway tolls alone.
INCIDENTALLY, APROPOS of the previous entry, the music in the "French Dictionary" Levi's commercial is "Playground Love" by Air. bit the dust and no one told me. It was a nifty site where one could look up advertisements, including names of songs in ads, or catch funny advertisements that people were talking about but you had somehow missed. It's funny that people have had so much trouble finding a way to commercialize content-providing sites, increasingly having to rely on annoying pop-up, pop-under, or, in the case of Slate, screen-obscuring advertising, and here's a site that couldn't make a go of it even though the content was the commercial.
DAVID FRUM IS appropriately upset at a typical New York Times headline:
“Killing Underscores Enmity of Evangelists and Muslims.” Yes, those missionaries and those Muslims really hate each other: Bonnie Witherall showed her hatred by offering free prenatal care to indigent Lebanese; the local Muslim clerics were naturally goaded by this outrage and killed her.
The new Smarter Harper's Index is up.

Friday, November 29, 2002

MINUTES AFTER THE Anter family arrived at their hotel, their vacation was ruined by a suicide bomber. Dvir, 14, and Nor, 12, were killed; their mother is unconscious in an Israeli hospital. BBC coverage.
SO IS EVERYONE getting the "Spin the Dreydel" Orbitz pop-up ad, or do I have a hidden cookie that tells the world that a Jew is using the browser?
ON-LINE GROCERIES IN 2002? If you remember the multi-billion-dollar bubble valuations for Webvan and the like, you may scoff, but FreshDirect seems to have an interesting business model focusing on Manhattan, where grocery prices are abnormally high and there's a demand for quality foodstuffs. Deliveries are on weekends and nights only, increasing the efficiency of the drivers, who avoid rush-hour jams.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

HENRY KISSINGER? Henry Kissinger is going to chair the panel investigating intelligence lapses that led up to 9/11? I guess this is just another of those brilliant moves from the Moral Clarity Administration. (Or is it rope-a-dope this week?) Next up, key roles will be found for James Baker and other realpolitik veterans from H.W.'s days.
ANOTHER WEDDING ENGAGEMENT brought about by blogging -- this time it's Sasha Castel and Andrew Ian Dodge, who met each other entirely through the blogosphere. Sasha swears it's true and Jane Galt is spreading the cheer as well. All the best from Combustible Boy, you crazy wacky kids.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I DON'T KNOW HOW Matt Welch beat me to blogging about Garance Franke-Ruta's take-down of Bowling for Columbine, but he did. Small world, etc., etc.

Smarting from the dis by the Yale Law Blog convention, I've been sunning it up in LA for a few days: blog-encounters with Welch, Emmanuelle, Howard Owens, and the always-gorgeous Cathy Seipp at a German beer-garden; and Captain Spaulding was kind enough to treat me to a tasty meal of Guatemalan fried chicken. Moxie is apparently sufficiently smitten with her new beau that she stood me up twice.

I also had a retroactive encounter with Nick Denton; I apparently met him a few months ago at a sushi bar in New York, where he was introduced to me as "Nick," and I was introduced to him with my real name by a mutual film-director friend, and we went our separate ways. The film-director recently sent out a party invitation cc'ing both of us and, in discussing it with her ("Wow, not only are you a hot award-winning film director, but you also know Nick Denton, so now I'm really impressed"), I learned that we already met. Who knew?
LONDON MAYOR KEN LIVINGSTONE says the Miss World riots in Nigeria were so obscene that the contest organizers should call off the show altogether rather than holding it in London:
Mr Livingstone said it was obscene that the organisers should now attempt to stage the contest at all.

"After the violence and terrible loss of life in Nigeria, the staging of a Miss World event in this city is not welcome," he said.

"It defies belief that after Miss World has brought tragedy and strife to Africa its organisers should think it appropriate to carry on with the razzamataz as if nothing had happened."
What? Miss World brought tragedy and strife to Africa? An international event that could have brought much-needed attention and investment to that part of the world -- and was shut down only because a radical, wildly intolerant version of Islam has also taken hold there? This sort of obscene victim-blaming is what truly "defies belief".
WORKERS IN A SENATE SUBBASEMENT chamber -- an obscure room that's being demolished to make way for the new visitor's center -- have stumbled upon an amazing find: what appear to be Senate paylists from the very first Congress on up to the mid-1950s:
They looked at the title of the volume, stamped in gold on the spine:

"Senators Compensation and Mileage."

Yeah, right.


Within minutes, Senate Historian Richard Baker was examining the find. And yesterday, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was displaying the volume to reporters while archivists wearing white gloves turned the pages for the cameras. Also on display were 59 additional books with records through the mid-1950s that were found in the same underground room.

The first volume is probably the only document with the signatures of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, not to mention subsequent Senate luminaries like John C. Calhoun. All were vice presidents and, therefore, presidents of the Senate. So all had to sign requisitions for senators' pay and mileage reimbursements.

"It is, literally, priceless," Daschle said. "It came within a whisker of being totally destroyed."
Indeed. An incredible discovery.
WHAT DO YOU DO when your TiVo thinks you're gay? I guess cutting back on the SpongeBob would be a good start, Mr. "Straightest Guy On Earth".

Monday, November 25, 2002

We are the Beagles!
Long and strong and proud!
We are the Beagles!
Our voices are quite loud!
GOOGLE BY PHONE! Doesn't work all that well just yet. I guess that's why it's in the "labs" section.
SOME GUY IN CONNECTICUT sculpts tiny little artworks from pencil points. He doesn't use a magnifying glass or any such thing, either. I'm willing to bet that at some point someone said, "Dalton, you really just need to find yourself a hobby," and now they're kicking themselves for not being more specific.

Update: Found a new link to replace the previous one, which had expired. Also, here's the guy's personal site.
TODAY'S WAPO HAS THE GOODS on a chain-smoking would-be Iraqi liberator who's currently stuck in Denmark:
Once he was the most senior officer of Saddam Hussein's army, with a row of ribbons across his chest, a million Iraqi soldiers under his command, and the respect and admiration of a nation. Then he fell out with the Iraqi leader and fled abroad -- lured, he said, by promises from the CIA of support to lead the grand revolt that would topple the dictator and restore Iraq to greatness. He would be Iraq's Charles de Gaulle.

Nizar Khazraji, 64, says he is ready to play the role that his entire life has prepared him for, that the time is ripe now that Washington and the world are applying new pressure on the faltering government. But he is going nowhere. For the general has a past, and a pursuer.

He faces allegations that he played a role in the Anfal, the brutal campaign against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq in which Hussein's forces slaughtered more than 100,000 civilians, razed hundreds of villages and sprayed poison gas. He has been released on his own recognizance but ordered to remain in Denmark.

He says he is innocent, the victim of false accusations by Hussein's agents and by rivals in the fractious and fratricidal world of Iraqi opposition groups, and of a right-of-center Danish government that is determined to show it is not soft on immigrants in general and an accused war criminal in particular.
Frankly, though I acknowledge that we have to work with some unsavory characters if we're going to continue to taking part in this sort of geopolitics, I'd say that the U.S. shouldn't ignore these war-crimes accusations if they turn out to have legs. Sticking to realpolitik in the Middle East helped get us into this mess in the first place -- supporting Nizar Khazraji just because he's a credible opponent to Saddam isn't necessarily a better long-term idea than supporting Saddam as a credible opponent to Khomeini was two decades ago. I'd rather see some more of that vaunted "moral clarity" that Bush allegedly showed a year ago (and has continually undermined with every friendly gesture toward the 7,000 Saudi princes since then).

And hey! On a related note, our Norse demigod Vegard Valberg has returned with posts on Iranian versus Chinese revolutionaries as well as another Grauniad take on the Mother of All Battles II.
THE WSJ REPORTS ON how passenger-jet designers use various trompe l'oeil techniques to convince passengers that the planes are roomier than they actually are. Unstated is how the designers managed to convince the WSJ reporters that these techniques are actually successful.

(Actually, the fact that the only planes I've flown on since reaching adulthood were old Airbus jets might have something to do with my cynicism in this regard.)
HALLELUJAH, IT LOOKS LIKE time has finally solved what Dubya and Laura never could:
Cheers to the Bush twins, who turn 21 tomorrow and can finally throw away their fake IDs.

Jenna and Barbara Bush, whose hijinx have given their presidential father headaches, will finally reach legal age and can have a cocktail without worrying about the cops.
Travelocity's got some last-minute deals on trips to Austin...
MORNING BLOGWATCHING: Cinderella Bloggerfeller's machine-translated "Axis of Porcel HQ" blog is moving beyond its original mandate of archiving Catalonian writer Baltasar Porcel's inscrutable work. Having recently auto-translated a piece by sociologist Eulàlia Solé, Bloggerfeller notes with approval that "Google Tools, with a literalism bordering on the surrealist, insists on translating [Solé's name] as 'Eulalia I Paved'." That reminds me of the time I tested out Babelfish on a Spanish-language newspaper article about George Carey, who at the time was Archbishop of Canterbury, and the translator insisted on referring to him as "George Sea turtle". (Bloggerfeller's main blog remains, as always, invaluable for Cinderella's painstaking legitimate translations of interesting work that would otherwise be unavailable in English.)

In other news, Damian Penny has discovered what Jesus would really drive, and Lair wants you to help him win an argument with his wife by suggesting more movie sequels that were better than the originals.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

TODAY'S ADDITION TO THE Snopes site has Barbara echoing my previously expressed thought that the story about the Swedish fast-food joint washing its toilet seats in the dishwasher was a little too vaguely sourced to be entirely certain about.
SO, YOU THINK LILEKS will bleat tonight about the WSJ's big Fargo story today? The article has a photo of a whole bunch of white people at some kind of outdoor celebration in the downtown area, which neighborhood has already been celebrated by Jimmy the Pop on one of his less prominent sub-sites.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

OVER AT SNOPES TODAY, there's a nice wrap-up of the much-blogged Peter Kirstein incident, in which Saint Xavier University history professor Kirstein sent a scathing and condemnatory e-mail to an Air Force Academy cadet who had e-mailed him for assistance in promoting an upcoming student conference. You've probably seen the original e-mails a few times before, but Snopes also has a few other e-mails and memos related to the incident -- including the auto-reply message that the president of Saint Xavier has begun using on his e-mail address, which quotes and briefly responds to a number of choice comments the university has received from other e-mailers.
HELPING SET THE STAGE FOR the NATO summit, the WSJ has a pretty good summary of the differences in perception that Bush has to contend with:
Here's the problem: The U.S. sees itself as highly vulnerable, standing in the cross hairs of every terrorist group in the sphere of radical Islam. The rest of the world sees the U.S. as invincible, and sometimes arrogant in its invincibility. Others simply can't understand why we are so afraid.

This is a profound disconnect, something akin to men being from Mars, women from Venus. America towers above the rest of the world as never before -- yet Americans themselves haven't felt so vulnerable since Pearl Harbor. If you are wondering why the U.S. seems to be talking past the rest of the world these days, and why there is so much resentment of the way the U.S. conducts itself, the answer starts within this disconnect.
A lot of this is stuff you've probably read elsewhere, and it doesn't take into account some of the challenging differences in political philosophy between the U.S. and many other countries, but it's a nice concise summary.

One thing that should be kept in mind is that our seeming military invincibility really only applies to traditional state-versus-state warfare, which is why the administration has had to cast much of the war against Islamism into a series of such traditional wars. When the actual enemy is a loose collection of militants who aren't part of a traditional state-sponsored military, there's no way to use our "invincible" military capability to destroy them unless we're going to go and annihilate entire civilian populations with nuclear weapons, and we know perfectly well that we're not going to do that, nor should we want to.

Of course, a fair number of the most over-the-top anti-war protesters you're seeing nowadays really do think we're looking for an opportunity to nuke people into oblivion, or at least destroy them with conventional bombs à la Dresden, which is one of the things that makes it so tough to discuss these issues calmly with this variety of protester. They also don't seem to have any comprehension of how we're trying to run a war these days, leading to such questions as "how are we saying we're helping the people in Baghdad by bombing Baghdad to smithereens?", as though our intent actually is to just bomb the crap out of Baghdad until nothing's left standing.

One of the things that makes it hard to convince people that the war the U.S. is planning isn't intended to involve the annihilation of cities is the sort of news and documentary footage that comes out nowadays, focusing entirely on bombed-out structures to give the impression that the entire city was reduced to rubble, rather than making it clear that the devastation seen in the news footage and photos was just the destruction of one or two buildings, or at most a very small part of the city. You saw this in Jenin this year, and you saw it in that Saira Shah documentary that used a few seconds of driving past bombed-out buildings to create the false impression that most of Kabul had been reduced to rubble -- which led to naïve questions last year about why we were just bombing rubble into smaller pieces of rubble.

This misunderstanding of the intentions and methods of modern-day warfare is a far more difficult perceptual gap to overcome. On the other hand, the people who misunderstand these matters the most are not people who are actually in power -- they're not, I don't think, the sort of people Bush is going to be having to convince this week at his summit -- and so the perceptual gap that the WSJ story describes is probably the more pressing one at the moment.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002


(From a recent entry in the Baltimore City Paper's insolent-recaps-of-newspaper-comics feature.)

Monday, November 18, 2002

REMEMBER THE PHOTO OF THE GUY protesting in Germany with his little girl up on his shoulder wearing a fake suicide-bomb belt? Sure, you remember. Well, he's actually gotten in some trouble for it:
BERLIN - A German court on Monday sentenced a Palestinian man to five months' probation for fitting his three children with mock explosives belts in an allusion to suicide bombers at a demonstration in Berlin earlier this ear.

The 33-year-old, identified only as Mohammed ell., was convicted by a district court of condoning criminal acts, and also was sentenced to do 300 hours' community work.
Of course, there are some people you just can't please, and I'm one of them -- I thought "Mohammed ell."'s getups for his kids were disgusting, but I'm not too fond of Germany's "ah, the hell with free speech" outlook either. But it looks like ell. has shown some remorse:
"The misery in the occupied territories is too great," he said, adding he would never allow his children to become suicide bombers.
Awwwwww. Well, now I feel better, don't you?

(Via Taranto.)
AH, THE PHONY CHIEF SEATTLE SPEECH! That bit of faux-1850s environmentalist bathos that sounds like it came from the pen of a Hollywood screenwriter in the weeping-Indian-by-the-roadside era -- appropriately so, because it was in fact the work of a screenwriter for a 1972 environmentalist film, and doesn't appear to bear any resemblance to Chief Seattle's actual statements. But the faux Seattle speech still shows up in punk rockers' liner notes, and on bumperstickers, and in hastily photocopied fliers handed out at lefty protest rallies, and even, I'm told, in Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance. And now here it is in the geography section of last year's "Nation's Report Card" test:
"The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. How can you buy or sell the sky-the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people."

-Chief Seattle to President Franklin Pierce, 1855

17. Read the passage above. What does Chief Seattle believe about owning land?

Many other people in the United States hold views on owning land different from those of Chief Seattle. What are these views?
Now, I know that there are certain urban legends that will always be held by people of certain political beliefs. Conservatives will always believe that Nixon would have won the 1960 presidential election had it not been for the Daley machine's shenanigans in Chicago, never mind that Kennedy would have won the election even without the electoral votes from Illinois. Loony-libertarian tax protestors will always believe that the Supreme Court's decision in Brushaber v Union Pacific ruled that the federal government can't impose an income tax, never mind that the court actually ruled the opposite of that. Various anti-government lunatics will always believe that the presence of a decorative gold-colored fringe on the U.S. flag in a courtroom magically suspends the Constitution and transforms the court into a military tribunal. And environmental lefties will always believe that Chief Seattle made some stirring environmentalist oration in the 1850s, so it's no surprise to find it in the "Nation's Report Card" test, since the test is probably just some left-leaning political stunt, right?

Nope -- the test is actually the product of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, and is administered each year to prove that U.S. kids are dumber than rocks and so the Department of Education's budget appropriation needs to be increased we need to work harder to educate our kids. Hmmph -- heal thyself, and all that.
PEGGY NOONAN TODAY HAS ANOTHER inane whine about the poor little smokers who are allegedly discriminated against because of their voluntary behavior:
"Second hand smoke kills." But--how to put it?--we all know that's just politically correct propaganda invented by the prohibitionists, don't we? If you spend 24 hours a day in a 4-by-4-foot room with a chain smoker you'll feel it, and you'll be harmed by it. But are you damaged by the guy down the hall who smokes in the office at work? No, you're not, and you know it. You just don't like it. Your nostrils are dainty little organs, and your nostrils trump his rights.
Yes, you're precisely right that my nostrils (and watery eyes, and scratchy throat) trump his """"""""""""rights"""""""""""". (I'd like to fit more scare quotes on there till I successfully express my contempt for her use of the word "rights", but I'd probably break the blog template if I added that many quotation marks.) But I don't claim to be a liberal, so I guess I'm not guilty of the hypocrisy that Peggy describes in the rest of her rambling, typically asinine commentary. What's most important is that a properly functioning office ought to prohibit people from doing things that make it hard for the rest of us to work -- for similar reasons, we don't let people spend the day blasting rock music and masturbating in their cubicles, even though that might give them pleasure just as smoking does. Some smoker's desire to increase his pleasure at the expense of a comfortable working environment for the rest of the office doesn't translate to a right, nor does it mean that I should cry for him when he has to go stand outside in order to engage in his little pleasure ritual.

Now, Peggy does have a compromise solution that's not all that objectionable:
But you definitely wouldn't be harmed if the handful of smokers in your office were allowed to smoke only in a common room with good ventilation. Why wouldn't that be a civilized and acceptable compromise?
Sure, I wouldn't object to that if the employer was able to do so, but not every office has the space for such a room, and there's no reason to look down on an employer who isn't in the mood to give up expensive office space just to accommodate the pleasure rituals of the drug addicts on the staff.

(Man alive, it's articles like this that remind me that no matter how much leftists tick me off nowadays, conservatives are also still able to make blood vessels pop out of my forehead. I similarly have to restrain myself from throwing my radio against the wall and smashing it into ten billion pieces every time that mouth-breathing demagogue Limbaugh's voice issues from the speakers.)

Via Arthur Silber, whose opinion of the article is the opposite of mine.
IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE for me to pay $5000 for a Segway -- I'd get about a coupla hundred dollars of use out of it -- but it's still pretty cool. Cool, but useless. The thing weighs 83 pounds, so it'd be difficult to shlep it through the Metro. I couldn't really do more with it than go get groceries, or stop by a local restaurant or shopping center, but of course, I could do the same thing on the Metro for $2.20 round-trip, or a $1 parking plus a few pennies wear-and-tear on the car, or just walking. And who'd want to leave it outdoors, exposed to the elements, even if encrypted keys keep it from being driven away? I'm still unsure where the niche is: okay, cops who don't want to use bicycles, or warehouse personnel, or mail-carriers, or eccentric rich students at flat college campuses. (I can imagine a few of my law school professors getting one as a lark.)

Saturday, November 16, 2002

WHAT ANDREA HARRIS SAID ABOUT the latest inane California peace-protestor stunt is true enough, but even more irritating to me was the ditzy notion that naked women would "shock" the Bush administration into noticing that some people don't want a war in Iraq. Come on, how childish are these people? I'm only 26 years old and I'm savvy enough to know that nobody old enough to be a member of the Bush administration is shocked by the existence of naked women. (No, not even John Ashcroft, although annoyed might be closer to the truth in his case.) Sure, it's fun to tease Republicans for being uptight, but most of us know better than to think that Bush is going to faint at the thought that women took their clothes off somewhere, and after several applications of the smelling salts, he'd finally come to and for the first time in his life realize that maybe not everybody wants a war in Iraq. Similarly with the people out there who honestly believe that Bush is the utter drooling moron that people like to paint him as being.

Frankly, the only thing that might actually shock the Bush administration is if for once, just once, we might see a return to the long-ago example of leftish-leaning college kids as well-dressed, peaceful protestors united behind a single articulate viewpoint. Naked leftist women rolling in the grass = not shocking in the least. Nicely dressed leftist protestors putting forth a coherent agenda in a demonstration noticeably lacking in screamed insults and broken windows = time to break out the smelling salts.
MAN, NO WONDER EUROPEANS DON'T like McDonald's much.

(Wanna bet it's an urban legend? We'll probably never know.)
I GOT CLOSE TO 22 HOURS of sleep from yesterday to today but I've still been tired ever since I finally woke up at around three this afternoon. I hate weekends.

Friday, November 15, 2002

MAD MAGAZINE NAILS it on the head with what's wrong with the Onion, and it's funny to boot. (via Spaulding)
HERE'S A COUPLE OF completely non-warblog-like blogs that have caught my attention in the past week or so. Give, Get, Take, and Have is a blog run by Chicagoan Jay Niemann that's completely devoted to "the sale of unusual vinyl records". He's got some amazing stuff on there, the sort of thing you always hope to see when you find a new dig-through-the-vinyl-in-the-back store and start diving through the stacks in hopes of finding some gems. On the other side of the world, a young Japanese woman named Miyuki is running a photoblog called Refrigerator that's heavily tilted toward photos of food and food packaging. Hey, if there's one thing I like better than food, it's food packaging. So go visit Miyuki and send her butterflies!

(The nearest actual used-vinyl-in-the-back store to me, two subway stops away from here, doesn't have quite the selection you'd hope for, although that is where I bought my Elvis Costello records for a buck or so apiece. It's not as good as that now-defunct place in Baltimore where I picked up a great Duke Ellington rerelease from circa 1960 that only cost me a quarter. Then again, I'm weird; I still frequently listen to that one Average White Band album that I bought in the used-vinyl section of a certain indoor flea market in Roanoke, even though I'm perfectly aware of how wrong I am to enjoy any blue-eyed lite funk from the '70s. Hey man, I spent much of last night with my speakers blasting Zapp & Roger's "More Bounce to the Ounce" and "Computer Love", which has got to earn me back some points, right? Um.... right?)

Thursday, November 14, 2002

BUT DOES HE LOOK BETTER IN GO-GO BOOTS? In frightening news today, I was shopping for ties at Hecht's when a saleslady sidles over to me. "You're the Secretary of Energy, aren't you!" I'm dumbfounded for a minute -- first time I'd been confused for a quasi-celebrity, and I'm searching my head for who the Secretary of Energy is, and the saleslady completes her thought hesitantly, "Spencer Abraham?" I accurately deny it, and I accurately deny ever hearing that comparison before in response to further questioning.

So, not only is the saleslady telling me that I look like a jowly ex-Senator 17 years older than me, but she's effectively rubbing it in my face that she's better at Cabinet Jeopardy! than I am. (In a 200-person American Politics class lecture hall twelve years ago, the professor, telling an anecdote about how Reagan identified his HUD Secretary as "Mr. Mayor," asked if anyone remembered who that cabinet member was. After a moment of silence, I blurted out "Pierce," and then slunk down in my tenth-row seat so I wouldn't be singled out as the flamer who remembered that trivia.)

I still buy some ties from her (ties much more stylish than those Abraham wears), but now I'm worried Moxie won't want to be seen in public with me when we go out for sushi in two weeks.
ANYONE EVER NOTICE THAT Heather Havrilesky has two separate entries for the same blog on InstaPundit?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON HAS traded in her Lincoln Navigator for a Toyota Prius, and will be producing public-service announcements from the "Got Milk?" people in favor of the concept.
THE REVIEWS FOR THE new Harry Potter movie are crummy, and indicate adaptation troubles that make the movie disjointed, even at 162 minutes, which bodes poorly for the third and fourth books, which were even longer than the second.
I'M LINKING TO THIS piece from the Claremont Institute on the Minnesota election not because it's a special special piece on punditry, but because I'm strangely flattered that they thought sending me a press release would accomplish anything. They'd get more hits if they sent $100 to Moxie, and she looks better in go-go boots than I do.

In other news, the American Lawyer did a big story with a picture spread of Denise Howell because her blog gets 250 hits a day. I, of course, with 350-400 hits a day, am chopped liver, which is why Yale Law School will invite me to attend as a student, but not as a blogger, not that I don't have two pre-existing and mutually interfering, commitments. And I suspect Denise Howell also looks better in go-go boots than I do.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

WHILE CASTING ABOUT FOR information on the horrendously underreported Iranian student demonstrations, I came across an Iranian personals site featuring people from Iran and other Central Asian countries as well as Western countries. Man alive, if those Tehran women are for real, I can see why the mad mullahs think they should be required by law to keep covered up outdoors lest every man on the street suddenly turn into those male Warner Bros. cartoon characters who react to any sighting of a woman's thigh by doubling over with their jaws on the floor, eyes bugging out a half mile and steam coming out of their ears with foghorn sound effects as they do a seal-like flipper dance before baying at the moon. (There are a fair number of Iranians around my neighborhood, so this wasn't exactly a shock to me, but it's always interesting to see your suspicions confirmed. Then again, some of the pictures have the same sort of creepy glamour-shot aspect that you see in ex-Soviet mail-order bride ads.)

Oh, and why do I say "horrendously underreported"? Well, for one thing, the story has lately been either way down at the bottom of the front page on Google News or not on the front page at all, and since Google News's story-ranking algorithm seems based on the number of stories it finds and their placement on its source news sites, that would indicate that traditional news editors aren't putting a whole lot of emphasis on what seems to me to be one of the most important international breaking news stories going at the moment. Right now, the Iran story is showing up quite a ways down on Google's world news page, with just 171 related articles found, compared to more than 1,800 hits for the latest Bush-vs.-Iraq headlines. (And many of the related articles on the Iran issue are focused on what Khatami and the judiciary think of the issue, rather than the ongoing student demonstrations.)
THE WORLD'S UGLIEST CORVETTE. Man, engine block, interior, and everything. Or if that's not your bag, check out the Carthedral. (You probably won't be shocked to learn that the woman who created the Carthedral lives in Berkeley.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

THE 13-YEAR-OLD WHO WAS shot by the snipers outside his junior high school in Bowie was released from Children's Hospital on Monday, weeks before doctors had expected he'd be able to be released. It's still a day-to-day struggle to cope with his injuries as he recovers. See the latest from WaPo reporter Tamara Jones, who's pretty much owned this story.
THE LATEST GRAUNIAD DISPATCH from Matthew "The Olive Garden" Engel is a rambling rumination on Oklahoma voters' decision to ban cockfighting, which, Engel laments, is not going to be a prelude to a ban on "shooting" (which I suppose would include hunting with firearms). The reason "shooting" isn't going to be outlawed, we are informed, is because of the extremely rich and powerful gun lobby -- not, of course, because "shooting" is a beloved avocation of vast numbers of Americans. (That sort of dreadful democratic thinking quite simply isn't going to fly with Olive Matt.)

Most of the article, of course, is just the usual sort of smartass choir-aimed preaching -- largely free of any attempt to make the case for those who aren't already persuaded -- that passes for wise current-events commentary in the newspapers of Merrie Olde England. (Mark Steyn, as you probably know, provides the same sort of thing from the other side of the spectrum for The Telegraph.) But there's likely another undercurrent in Engel's ravings partway through the piece about how different states of the U.S. have different laws:
First, in an increasingly homogeneous society, American exceptionalism is somehow comforting. It was curiously pleasing to know that, if I ever did want to see another cockfight, I only had to travel to Oklahoma - just as it is pleasing to know that Oklahoma, like South Carolina, bans tattooing, so if I wake up and don't want to be tattooed, I know where to go too.
I have at least a faint suspicion that this is an attempt by Engel -- banned to the Siberia of being the Grauniad's U.S. correspondent -- to argue by proxy against the British dullards and half-wits who would rather keep some political power somewhere nearby rather than export it all to Brussels. I suspect the Grauniad reader is supposed to chuckle and think: Ah, just like the stupid Americans do in their own hideous country! Being a stupid American, however, I'm likely lacking some discernment in this area, but I'm heartened to note that at least one person in a Land Down Under felt the same way...

Update 13 Nov.: Emily Hawkgirl feels like revoking Engel's visa. I don't think I can support this one, because that'd mean he'd go back to the U.K., which already sometimes seems to have more people like Engel than people like Steve and Cindy and the crew. Over here, we still have enough room to absorb a few more twits like Olive Matt -- such as his pal George Moonbat and maybe even this guy Sirus Frizztail.
GLENN REYNOLDS STILL REFERS TO the ATF as the BATF. In case you didn't know, that's one of them wink-wink-nudge-nudge signifiers, kind of like referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party".

Monday, November 11, 2002


Sunday, November 10, 2002

YOU KNOW, IT WOULD have been nice for the Washington Post to mention before an election on a $5 billion tax increase to pay for transportation that part of Northern Virginia's traffic problem stems from the failure of local government to retime traffic lights that were last programmed over a decade ago.
WATCHING TOO MUCH late night television lately. Things I noticed:
* Michael Moore on Oprah repeating the Halloween candy story I had been telling people all last week. (When I grew up in Houston, trick-or-treating essentially ended because of a mass scare over poisoned candy, even though the only incident was a father poisoning his son for insurance money.) I hope people don't think I was just parroting Michael Moore. What was really happening was that we were both parroting Barry Glassner's "The Culture of Fear." Glassner was on the show, too; I won't comment on the irony of Oprah having guests complaining about fear-mongering. (And I wonder how many "TV Nation" and "Awful Truth" segments focused on wildly remote environmental risks?)

* Carson Daly is terrible interviewer. He had Ted Danson on. He gave Danson a shirt as a reference to a joke on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The gag, not that funny to begin with (it was a different shirt for one thing), was sufficiently obscure that even Danson seemed confused, and the audience didn't seem to get it either. The interview itself was painful to watch: Daly gushing like a little fanboy.

* Ted Danson gave a pitch on the show for the Toyota Prius, though. Good for him.

* The opening credits montage of a 1990 rerun of Saturday Night Live had an awkward number of close-to-identical shots of an Empire State Building bedecked in red, white, and blue, which makes one suspect that they were editing out shots of the New York skyline with the World Trade Center. It was far more noticeable than if they hadn't done the Soviet-style re-editing, and it just seemed wrong.

* Speaking of which, why is it that The Powers That Be pulled the "Simpsons" episode where Homer visits the World Trade Center, but not the "Simpsons" episode where a missile collapses a fictional New York City Mad Magazine skyscraper into rubble?

Friday, November 08, 2002

IN AN N.Y. OBSERVER COLUMN attacking Gore Vidal's latest Bush conspiracy tale, Ron Rosenbaum makes a point of employing the warblogger terms "fisking" and "misting". Lexicographers, who still seem wedded to the superstition that being rendered in ink on paper is the only thing that makes a word legitimate, should take note.
DATA SECURITY AT FINANCIAL COMPANIES is increasingly being compromised by "hacking syndicates", but the financial institutions are keeping it quiet by electing not to report security breaches and even paying hush money to the syndicates, according to a Computerworld article. (Web searches turned up a pair of related reports [both in PDF format] co-authored by Tom Kellermann, the World Bank specialist quoted in the story.)
THE FIRST PART OF THE WTC's structure to fail was the columns whose fireproofing was knocked loose by airplane debris, according to the latest in-depth study, which absolves the floor trusses and the fireproofing itself from blame. (Note, you'll need GIF animation turned on to see the animated impact diagram near the top of the above story, and you'll also need to enable pop-up windows to follow the collapse-sequence links further down in the story.) Part of the evidence that the floor trusses weren't to blame is that the smoke pouring out of the buildings before they fell was coming out in differentiated, floor-by-floor streams, whereas if the floor trusses had failed there would have been undifferentiated masses of smoke issuing forth, says the chairman of the engineering firm that led the study.

This study was commissioned by Silverstein Properties to support its $7 billion insurance claim, while the insurers commissioned their own report that criticized portions of the Silverstein study, mostly those relevant to the insurance dispute. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is working on its own two-year analysis, will be taking both of these studies into account.
1,323-POUND TACO. Anyone have a photo?

Thursday, November 07, 2002

IN A COUPLE OF RECENT POSTS, Greg Beato has done an excellent job countering some of the more egregious bloviation that's been committed by right-leaning pundits since John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were arrested and charged with being Snipey & Son. If immersing yourself in warblogs sometimes leaves you unable to think beyond a certain mindset -- I'll admit, it happens to me sometimes -- then Beato's blog is an excellent remedy, deftly dissecting some of the warblogosphere's faves but not embracing the sort of bogus contrary ideologies that some contenders are known for.
AS THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY gets busy selecting its next generation of leaders, the WaPo has a pretty good retrospective of Jiang Zemin's years in power. The modernization of the party during Jiang's 13 years in charge, which the article says was necessary for it to remain in power, has been something of a two-edged sword -- it pulled out of people's private lives somewhat, and has embraced commerce and privatization to an extent that's surprised me, but the modernization has also seen the party get in tight with business oligarchs and become ever more efficient at repressing any hint of dissent and any bit of information that might threaten the party's control. (You might say it has actually become the sort of party that a some left-leaning Westerners are always hyperbolically accusing the Republicans of being.) As I have indicated before, I've been tending to see China (and some other Pacific Rim countries) as something of a test case for libertarians' faith that the desire for the prosperity that capitalism brings will be an important means of spreading individual liberties.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

GOTTA LOVE THOSE COMMENTS POSTERS. So Oliver Willis cautions the Dems not to think they need to move to the left, and says that 51-49 isn't an impressive mandate, and up pops some tractor salesman in his comments section:
41 - 49 is a HUGE mandate, if you compare this with the state of things before the election, and figure in the fact that this is a first-term, mid-term election during a queasy economy.

Spin on all you folks want, but America has devastated you. You have been left behind. Adios in the dust, mf, to quote the movie.

Say good bye Roe v Wade. Say goodbye NPR. Now, the long knives come out. Now, let the bloodletting begin.
No way. I'm inclined to agree with other blog commentators that the Republicans appealed to voters by looking tougher on terrorism and by facing a Democratic Party without a clear message. Trying to use this as a mandate for all that paleocon culture-war nonsense would be folly for the GOP, just as the Democrats would be nuts to take Michael Moore's advice by trying to act just like Nader. Frankly, I'm with Kathy Kinsley on this one:
I hope you Republican politicians will keep in mind that a lot of people held their noses to vote because of the war on terrorism. It doesn't mean we want you in our bedrooms, ok?
Right on.

Update: VodkaPundit -- who, like me, has an affection for divided government -- has said much the same thing at greater length. And Instantman got right in there with one of his pet issues as well.
DIGGING AROUND ON THE Web site of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, our man Cinderella spotted a piece that's either celebrating or poking fun at the old-school Marxist terrorism theorist Carlos Marighella, who in the late Sixties wrote the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla. Cinderella's ensuing mockery of traditional far-left posturing, and the radical chic of the years since, is just another example of why he (and his blogdaddy Chapman) are worth your time, particularly if you've gotten tired of the GOP rah-rah-ing and rote fisking elsewhere in the warblogosphere.

That's not to say Cinderella can't deconstruct the dunderheads with the best of 'em -- check out his explanation of why Matthew "The Olive Garden" Engel and his Grauniad compatriots remind him of background Muzak that never challenges or surprises. (Okay, so that tends to be true of commentators all over the political spectrum, and some bloggers too, but who said I have to be fair?)